Many workers in professions ranging from shipbuilding to vehicle repairs have had occupational asbestos exposure. These workers could eventually develop mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the organ linings. They could also be at increased risk of lung cancer and asbestosis, which are also serious medical conditions with a strong correlation with workplace asbestos exposure.
Employers often fail to take the necessary steps to protect their workers, such as providing safety equipment and conducting necessary chemical testing. In theory, the company that exposed a worker to asbestos may be responsible if the work eventually falls ill, but the employee will have to pursue a claim to access support.
Those at risk of developing mesothelioma may fail to recognize how their occupation has endangered their health. They may think that they are in the clear because it has been years since they handled asbestos. Unfortunately, the truth is that asbestos exposure often doesn’t cause medical issues for decades.
Mesothelioma often develops late in life
Like other aggressive forms of cancer, mesothelioma tends to metastasize quickly after diagnosis. That means it will aggressively spread to other tissue and further compromise an individual’s health. Although it does spread aggressively once established, mesothelioma often takes a very long time to initially develop.
Cancer specialists estimate that it usually takes 20 years or longer for mesothelioma to develop after asbestos exposure. Some workers may go 30 or 40 years after leaving a job handling asbestos before they develop any symptoms.
What does that slow mesothelioma development mean for workers?
Whether you have handled asbestos yourself or have an immediate family member who worked with this dangerous substance, you need to proactively monitor yourself for the rest of your life for warning signs of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses.
You will also need to communicate effectively with any medical professional evaluating symptoms about your prior workplace exposure. Even seemingly benign issues, like weight loss or fatigue, could be early warning signs of mesothelioma. Doctors will be better equipped to rule out mesothelioma or diagnose it quickly when they know that someone is at high risk because of their current or former occupation.
Educating yourself about mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases will help you protect your health and hold former employers accountable for endangering you.